Cheyney University Set to Create a Rugby Program

On Monday February 12th, in the Philadelphia suburbs, a moment that had been over 150 years in the making came to fruition. Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, finalized a plan to introduce a rugby program into their school's system.

Cheyney University is the oldest Historical Black College/University (HBCU) in the United States, and since their inception in 1837 they'd never had a rugby program until now. The catalyst for this change was one of their Alumni, LeRoy McCarthy. McCarthy, a filmmaker and Cultural Advocate with a lot of his work centering around Hip Hop icons such as Biggie Smalls and Tupac, has been an avid fan of rugby for over two decades.   "I was introduced to Rugby by watching Jonah Lomu and the New Zealand All Blacks on TV while on vacation in my birth country of Jamaica." McCarthy explained. "I was raised in Brooklyn, NY, where I've played Club Rugby for almost two decades. I have seen the potential that the sport of Rugby has had on players and communities." McCarthy elaborated. It was the potential that rugby has to affect a community that lead McCarthy on his journey to bring rugby to Cheyney.

As an alumnus of Cheyney, McCarthy knew better than anyone what impact rugby could have on the students, and in return the impact that the students could have on rugby. "Many of its' (Cheyney) students go on to work as educators in urban American areas. The development of rugby at Cheyney would have long term positive ramifications, and popularize the sport in urban areas." McCarthy explained. While, there are many physical benefits from playing rugby, McCarthy saw something more to it than just the physical aspect. "I love the sport, and I can see how rugby can develop better citizens."

McCarthy's quest began in 2008 when he was screening one of his documentaries at Cheyney, but due to extenuating circumstances it wasn't to be then. However, this didn't stop McCarthy, and this February he was able to sit down once again with officials at Cheyney, and this time walk away with the desired result. McCarthy donated 12 rugby balls, and met with eager students. Cheyney University will play its first competitive match of rugby in the Fall of 2018.

The President of Cheyney University, Aaron Walton, was excited about the prospect of seeing a rugby team at the University. "The introduction of Rugby to the school/students would be an excellent idea." There is still work to be done before the opening kick-off, and McCarthy has enlisted the help of students to help kick start the program. "The introduction of Rugby begins this Spring at Cheyney, and in Fall 2018 there intends to be the start of Men's & Women's Cheyney University Wolves Rugby Clubs, where students will be welcome to tryout." McCarthy elaborated as he laid out his plans.

Enhancing African-American participation has been the underlying motive behind all of this for McCarthy, and he believes that from planting the seeds in Cheyney and expanding the programs out to other HBCUs that there could be a significant increase in the number of African Americans who decide to come out to try rugby.

USA Rugby's Director of College Rugby, Rich Cortez seconded this notion, and was enthralled the idea of helping to advance the game within the HBCU campuses. "It's heartening to hear Cheyney University will be forming a rugby team. This will provide another great opportunity for students to participate in our sport, which is embracing expansion and diversity. Rugby is a game for all and we are excited that colleges are giving students exposure to the wonderful sport."